Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Episode Resources

Listen to "Turning the Tide" by Holly Elliff.

Leslie Basham: Here's the number one thing for a parent to do, according to Bill Elliff. 

Bill Elliff: Do everything that is necessary to maintain intimacy with Christ, because everything flows from His presence. If you have Him, you have everything you need.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of The Quiet Place, for Thursday, July 5, 2018.

This week Bill and Holly Elliff have been sharing practical advice for parents based on their experience raising eight kids and, more importantly, on God's Word.

Bill is the pastor of the Summit Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Holly is a regular guest on Revive Our Hearts. Here's Nancy to continue her conversation with Bill and Holly.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: We've talked a lot about legacy and what you're passing on to your children. If today was the funeral of one or both of you and your children were to stand and give testimony about what their parents stood for, what they remember about their parents, what would you want them to be able to say?

Holly Elliff: Oh, wow. There are Kleenexes on the table, and that's a good thing, because that's a question that matters. You know what, I'm going to do Billy. What I would love to hear them say about their dad, and what I think they'll be able to say about their dad, is that he was a man who loved God's Word, who pursued the Lord even when it was sometimes not popular or easy. 

He pursued truth in his relationship with the Lord. And in obedience to the Lord, he was a man of courage as he did that. They would say that they're grateful for that example in their home. I know everybody doesn't have that. They had a dad who pursued truth, who lived it out, not as a perfect man or in a pharisaical way, but that he was a man who pursued God with a passionate heart and encouraged them to do the same.

Bill: I don't know if all that would fit on the tombstone.

Holly: It would have to be really big!

Bill: You know, as long as we're turning the tables here, I think what Holly would desire to have said, because it's her life, is, "Here's a woman who loved God with all of her heart. She loved the truth of God's Word and stood for it. She loved her children with tenacity and was the greatest servant we've ever known. She has given her life for Christ and for her family and for those that God has put in the circle of her influence."

Nancy: And what a picture that is of Christ!

Bill: It is Christ.

Nancy: I want to ask you one more hard question. It was the weekend of my twenty-first birthday, Labor Day 1979, that I received the call that my dad, at fifty-three years of age and in good health, as far as he knew, had had a heart attack and was instantly with the Lord. 

You just realize that you don't know how long you have to say the things that you want to say, that you need to say. One of the things that I want to encourage parents to do, and kids to their parents, is to say the things now that you wished you'd said, later.

Lord willing, there will be lots more conversations with your children and grandchildren. But if you knew this was the last chance you'd have to leave a word with them (and I know I haven't given you a chance to think about this), what might be on your heart for them?

Holly: Well, I would want them to know that I loved them. I think they would know that. Beyond that, I would encourage them never to stop short of pursuing the Lord in every circumstance of their life, because even beyond our lifetime, Christ is going to be there to give them direction, to guide them, to teach them, to disciple them.

If they will pursue Christ for the rest of their life, then they will leave a legacy of truth that will be contagious for those that are around them, and will accomplish the purposes of Christ in their generation. So, I would feel okay if I knew they were going to be men and women who pursued Christ, who walked after Him and did what He said.

Bill: I think I'd say to them to do everything that is necessary to maintain intimacy with Christ, because everything flows from His presence. If you have Him, you have everything you need. If you don't have Him, you don't have anything. So ruthlessly pursue intimacy with Christ, and realize that you are preparing for eternity, and you're preparing those around you for eternity.

Understand the brevity of life and that every moment of the common day matters for Him.

Nancy: There are lot of powerful and practical takeaways from this conversation we've been having with Bill and Holly Elliff on parenting. I hope it's been encouraging to you. I know in some senses, perhaps, there are those who are thinking, Wow, we are just so far from this ideal. This is an unreal world they live in, it's not our world.

I hope you've picked up that God has grace for you in your situation, whatever that looks like—single mom, believing mom with an unbelieving husband, maybe in the throes of toddler tantrums right now, or teenagers who are pushing back, or young adult children who have made wrong choices and are breaking your heart and God's heart—but I hope what you've heard from Bill and Holly is that you can get to God, get His grace, and be His woman or His man in that situation.

I hope you've heard a call to prayer. That's been the point of the last part of this conversation. If you haven't, you've missed it. I hope you are leaving this time wanting to be more intentional, about living for eternity and influencing your children, by the grace of God and the power of His Holy Spirit, to have that heart to please the Lord and to serve Him and to be His instruments in their generation.

You can't control the outcome on that, and God is still writing the story. The last chapter has not been written. But our prayer is that you've been encouraged to seek the Lord, to honor Him, to be intentional and to trust Him for the outcome.

Bill and Holly, the last chapter hasn't been written on any of your children, so you're not off your knees yet.

Holly: And won't be, probably, because now we have grandchildren as well.

Nancy: That's right. So the spiritual battle continues and the opportunities. But I want to say, having been around your family . . . Sometimes we don't do a program like this for fear that people will think this is unreal, nobody else could ever measure up to that. We're all needy. But I've been around your family enough over twenty-five years now to see the beauty of legacy. 

I've been at your daughter's wedding and to see that young man coming into a family that says, "This is not just about us. This is about the gospel, this is about Christ. We're going to stick together; we're going to hold each other accountable. We're going to carry the torch and pass it on to the next generation." I think that kind of story needs to be told—not for the display of your family, but for the display of God's glory, which is what it's all about. 

Leslie: It's so easy as a parent to get lost in the daily details of life. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been reminding parents why they are engaged in this important job. She's been talking with Bill and Holly Elliff in this series called "Biblical Help for Today's Parents."

Holly will be right back with the second half of today's program. You're able to hear this kind of practical conversation based on God's Word, thanks to listeners who support this ministry financially. When you support Revive Our Hearts, you're helping women get to know God's Word. And you're helping women know how to live out His Word in practical areas of life.

When you support the ministry with a gift of any amount today, we'll say "thanks" by sending you a booklet by Bill and Holly Elliff called Turning the Tide. They show how your investment in your family can have a big effect on the entire world. Ask for Turning the Tide when you call 1–800–569–5959 with your gift of any size, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

In 2008, Holly Elliff spoke on parenting at the first True Woman Conference. Let's listen to that classic message from Holly. She's providing ten parenting tips.

Holly:

Number one: Pattern right responses. I'm a speech pathologist (or was, before I had children). I know from experience that if parents pattern speech for their kids, their kids are going to talk earlier, and they're going to understand more of the language that is said to them.

Deuteronomy 4 talks about this. You live before your kids in such a way that as you go, when you wake up, when you lie down, as you walk, you live in a way that pleases the Lord. Don't forget those things, don't let them depart from your heart. Make them known to your sons and your grandsons.

He goes on to say, these things have to be on your heart. You shall teach them when you talk to your sons, you shall talk of them in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, when you rise up (see vv. 9–14).

Number two: We are to seize teachable moments. These verses from Deuteronomy that we just read encourage us to teach as we go, all the time. Be intentional about your motherhood. We need to be alert to moments, some large, some small, when our kids will have ears to hear the truth. We could end up being the most organized mom, the best soccer mom around, the most efficient mother in every way, but we could find out too late that we exchanged temporal values for eternal ones.

Our kids will determine their priorities by what they've seen in our life. There are truths we can teach when our child is ten years old that might not be heard when that child is fifteen. Be intentional about you teach.

Number three: Encourage your children to think, to talk about what they hear and read. Don't expect your Sunday school teachers to do that. Proverbs reminds us, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction, but hear my son your father's instruction. Don't forsake your mother's teaching. They are a graceful wreath to your head and ornaments about your neck" (1:7–9 NKJV). You see, our children's responsibility is to listen, but our responsibility is to teach, and to do it intentionally, whenever and wherever possible.

Number four: We are to become students of our children. When Scripture talks about kids, it refers to them as olive plants. Olive plants have to be planted separately. They are totally separate plants and they are distinct and different. They have to be treated differently.

In the same way, in any size family, every child is separate and unique. The Lord says that child was fashioned by Him, that He knew him before he was even created. God knows what that child needs.

Number five: Create an environment at home that is safe and warm and inviting. Our kids are never too old to need affection.

The other night my seventeen-year-old came and sat in my lap. Now, he's six feet tall, so that was quite an experience.

Every child needs a place where wounds can heal, where truth is available, where grace is evident. We need to know our kids so we can apply what we know of God to their current life circumstances. I have one daughter who can really only have a deep conversation when we're at Sonic getting milkshakes. I don't know why, but the Lord showed that to me one day about her. Sure enough, if I go buy her a hot fudge shake at Sonic, she'll talk about anything!

Number six: Keep them talking. Open, warm relationships are possible even during teenage years. The foundation for that kind of connection is laid well before hormones make life more challenging. If you wait 'til age fifteen, you're in trouble. Openness and honesty are essential family values in our homes. Teach your children, beginning when they're young—or now, if you didn't do it then—to talk about what concerns them.

Talk to them on appropriate levels about how you deal with struggles, about how you pray for other people, about how you go to the Lord when you don't know what to do, about how you handle difficulty in your own life. They're going to learn by watching and listening to you as you talk with them about those things. Make mealtimes or time in the car very intentional.

Ask questions of your kids. These don't all have to be serious. They can be funny, silly things. They can be things that just encourage conversation. What happens is, if you start that early (even if you begin it now, they'll think you're weird at first, but it's never too late to encourage open conversation), if they are talkers when they are younger, when they hit teenage years, you can still talk to them. They're not so quick to retreat.

We don't let our kids run in their room and slam the door. We get them out, and we talk. We talk about what the issue is, and we talk until we get to the bottom of it. I've had so many 2:00 a.m. conversations, I can't tell you! But, encourage your kids to talk and be honest.

Number seven: Balance truth and grace. Paul said, speaking the truth in love, we're to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the Head, even Christ (see Eph. 4:15). As moms, sometimes we have to grow up, but if truth and love are balanced in our teaching and our discipline, we don't provoke our children to wrath. Ephesians 6:4 warns us that that's critical. Love without truth fosters indulgence and selfishness. Truth without love breeds legalism and resentment. It's so dangerous to have truth without love. You will have kids who walk away when they hit teenage years if all they have known is truth not balanced by grace and love. We must continually ask God to help us to know how to keep that seesaw parallel. It's not always easy.

Lots of times our husbands are a contrast to us. Don't tell your husband he doesn't know what he's doing in relationship to the kids. Because you know what, God put him there to help keep that seesaw parallel, so that you balance truth and love.

If you're a single mom here today, I would encourage you to find some godly people—friends in church, some family members that are godly—and ask them to help you stay balanced in your parenting. It's critical.

Number eight: Distinguish between defiance and crazy kid things. There's a big difference between foolishness that is just bound up in the heart of a child (because they're foolish, Proverbs says) and outright disobedience. Our kids are going to do crazy things because they're kids.

When my daughter put her shorts in the dryer with her pockets full of crayons, I had actually never said to her, "If you put your shorts in the dryer with the pockets full of crayons, it will ruin an entire load of laundry." I'd never told her that. That was a crazy kid thing.

We call those at our house, "CKTs"—Crazy Kid Things. CKTs, although annoying, are not the same thing as disobedience.

Now, the second time that the shorts go into the dryer with the pockets full of crayons, after I've given instruction, that would qualify as disobedience. So, while CKTs need intervention and training, disobedience needs correction. Willful, intentional disobedience that doesn't get attention will become outright rebellion by the time a child enters his preteen years.

We have to learn early on to distinguish the difference between crazy kid things and rebellion. Watch for a spirit in your child that says, "I will not!" When you see that, ask the Lord to give you discernment about that child's intent. Ultimately, you must be the parent. If the issue is about who's in charge, you have to win or Dad has to win, okay?

Hebrews talks about this when it says, "Discipline sometimes seems to be sorrowful, but in the end we are trained by it and it yields righteousness" (see Heb. 12:11).

Number nine: We're to teach internal control vs. external control. Proverbs talks about the importance of self-control in our children's lives. You see these Scriptures here: "Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit" (Prov. 25:28 NASB). "He who his slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who captures a city" (Prov. 16:32 NASB).

As our children grow up, they can more and more govern themselves so that they learn the difference between internal control and external control.

Internal control means, when I go to my four-year-old and say to him, "I want you to sit down on this bench," he makes a decision whether or not to sit down on the bench. If he does it himself, that's internal control. But if he doesn't do it, then I have to help him sit down on the bench, right? Sometimes it might just mean leading him over and sitting him on the bench. Sometimes it means something more serious than that.

So teach your children the difference between internal control and external control. Even young children quickly realize that internal control is a lot less costly than external control.

Number ten: Encourage kids to be the age they are. We live in a culture that markets adult sensuality to young children. It's important for our kids to realize that. If they're three, we want them to look and act and behave like a three-year-old. If they're fifteen we want them to look and act and behave like a fifteen-year-old-and not anything earlier than that or later than that.

Paul said, "Don't be conformed to the world, but be transformed, as you renew your mind" (see Rom. 12:2). We need children who are holy nonconformists.

Number eleven: Guard their hearts. Proverbs says, "Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life" (Prov. 4:23 ESV). We cannot be too cautious. Encourage your kids to come to you when they have questions about moral issues. Know who their friends are. Have their friends in your house, so you can look for red flag things that could be indicating a problem.

Above all, listen to your kids. Listen to what they're thinking, listen to what they're saying, listen to what they're not saying. Check your computer, check their emails, check their Facebook page. Don't be naïve. We want to be wise women in regard to our children.

Number twelve: Be purposeful in prayer. There are moments in parenting when our children's needs are too great for us. Sometimes, we not only don't have the answer, we can't even identify the problem. Sometimes we just need to be grateful that God has given us access to His endless wisdom. Don't stop short of praying for your kids. How tragic it would be if they had the right kind of tennis shoes, but not a praying mom!

Treat your children as though you won't have them next year. Train your children as though they won't have you next year. Ask yourself, "Am I being intentional about training my children for Christ?" Identify the areas of training that you know need attention in your home.

List those things to the Lord, one at a time, in prayer, and then write out what God is prompting your heart to change in relationship to your kids. My desire for us today, as women is that God would call out women like Hannah who would embrace the gift of children, who will consecrate their children to God for His kingdom purposes; that we would be women who are courageous enough to live counter to their culture.

If you love your kids and you raise them for Christ, you will be odd—you will not look like the rest of the women around you, and that is how it should be if we're going to be women called out by God.

Leslie: That's Holly Elliff, recorded at the True Woman '08 conference. To hear a longer version of that message, visit ReviveOurHearts.com. You'll find a link in today's transcript. 

What do a body, a building, a family, and a bride all have in common? Nancy will tell you tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts, with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you lean on Christ for everything you need. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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